Thursday, 28 May 2015

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Even the cats in Syria are traumatised by Assads constant barrel bombs

Who’s Lying About Syria’s Christian Massacre?

Muhammad Idrees Ahmad:

 " “In Adra on the northern outskirts of Damascus in early 2014, I witnessed [Nusra] forces storm a housing complex by advancing through a drainage pipe which came out behind government lines, where they proceeded to kill Alawites and Christians.” Cockburn was witnessing a war crime.
 But there is a problem. The atrocity might or might not have happened but Cockburn certainly didn’t witness it.
 Long before he placed himself at the center of the episode, Cockburn wrote about it in his January 28, 2014 column for The Independent. By his own account, he arrived in Adra after the alleged massacre and he was told the story about rebels advancing through a drainage pipe and massacring civilians by “a Syrian [regime] soldier, who gave his name as Abu Ali.”

 For Cockburn, the situation in Syria is stark: you are with the regime or you are with the terrorists. He is an enthusiast for the war on terror—Bashar al-Assad’s war on terror. He criticizes the U.S. for excluding from its anti-ISIS coalition “almost all those actually fighting ISIS, including Iran, the Syrian army, the Syrian Kurds and the Shia militias in Iraq.” “The enemy of our enemy”, he insists, “must be our friend”—and those who reject this formula are “glib” and “shallow”.
 He even gets to speak to “a local FSA commander” (at that point, Cockburn was still acknowledging the FSA), who tells Cockburn that he changed sides “because of general disillusionment with the uprising.”
 Only later are we told: “Listening to [the FSA rebel] impassively were Syrian army officers.”

 Cockburn gives no indication that he is troubled by the officers’ presence while he interviews a surrendered soldier.  Far from it. The trip leads him to conclude: “The only way to bring the political temperature down is by local ceasefires and peace deals.” Syria would be at peace, in other words, if all Syrians just re-submitted to regime rule.
 Cockburn is only following the precedent of his illustrious colleague Robert Fisk who, in August 2012, after a massacre of 400-500 people in Daraya, rode a Syrian Army armoured personnel carrier to the scene, interviewed survivors—“in the company of armed Syrian forces”—and concluded that, contrary to initial reports, “armed insurgents rather than Syrian troops” were responsible for the massacre.
 Veteran war correspondent Janine di Giovanni, however, visited the town unaccompanied and interviewed survivors without the menacing presence of the Syrian Army. They told di Giovanni that the massacre was carried out by the regime, a conclusion corroborated by Human Rights Watch.
 At their best, journalists exhume truth, as Seymour Hersh did after the massacre in My Lai. At their worst, they try to bury it, as Seymour Hersh did after the massacre in Eastern Ghouta.  Six months after a clumsy attempt at mass-crime revisionism, Hersh blurbed Cockburn’s book. Generous praise from Hersh would once have counted as an honour; after Syria, it has turned into an indictment."

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Fighters from a coalition of Islamist forces stand on a huge portrait of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Idlib [AFP]

Bashar al-Assad: The beginning of the end?
"Assad has lost much of his power when he failed to deter or scare people into submission in the first few months of the uprising.
And once he used force and failed to defeat his enemies, and then failed again when using terrible and illegal violence against civilians and fighters alike, it all signalled that his time was up, and the countdown had started for his demise.
If he survives at all, Assad will be a tidbit militia leader for a bit longer."
Pretty much. There is renewed reporting that the régime would accept a partition of the country*, but it has no basis in reality; If the régime were to abandon Western Aleppo to the threat of terrorist massacres, then how can it pretend to be the protector of Syrians, one of its few remaining claims to legitimacy? Especially when those massacres don't take place.
Hassan Nasrallah is in trouble**,
"Hezbollah’s war in Syria is an Iranian war, and a lost cause too. Hezbollah’s fighters will later see that Tehran will have to sell them out." The War Nerd*** is still providing the educated but stupid with an analysis that says Assad can go on, because the Alawite community are right behind him. 

Syrian soldiers

I saw massacre of children, says defecting Syrian air force officer
Three years ago now, this was the first major massacre of Assad's war against Syria. Assad sent his soldiers door-to-door to massacre Sunni Muslims, with the message that either Bashar stayed in power, or they would burn the country.
The régime lied, said it was the Free Syrian Army's work. And the world watched not sure to believe*. And when the truth became irrefutable, it was said to be just another massacre in a war where atrocities are committed by all sides. This is a pattern that was already well established by the time of Assad's chemical attacks of August 2013, throw sand in the world's face to obscure Assad's responsibility, and then congratulate yourselves for preventing a war by the lack of response. That's been what much of the left, abetted by much of the Western media, has done, and it has enabled Assad to intensify his war, and spread the catastrophe to neighbouring countries. The subtitle of this piece, "As UN envoy warns of all-out war", is in that vein, as if Assad's war to keep himself in power will relent as long as we don't over-react.

Sunday, 24 May 2015

War News

"Ahrar Al-Sham leaders spoke out in support of Jabhat al-Nusrah after Coalition airstrikes on their bases."

Friday, 22 May 2015

How did Hamas's military expertise
 end up with Syria's rebels?

' "Today Hamas is in a tough spot. It made moves towards reviving ties with Iran and Hezbollah but they (Tehran and the Lebanese movement) have responded with coolness, demanding a high political price," said Khader.
"Hamas is asked to publicly back Assad," said Khader, adding that such a U-turn could not be contemplated by the Palestinian movement, which wants its "stances to be based on principles, not opportunism".  
"Besides," Khader said, "the vast majority of people in Gaza are with the Syrian uprising, save a minority of leftists and some others who switch sides to what benefits them at any given moment." '

Sadly, this is like many leftists everywhere, who have chosen blind opportunism over solidarity, which will put left-wing politics on the defensive around the world, when Assad falls, the full extent of his crimes becomes obvious, and people turn away from those associated with the politics of denial.

Syria: The Imperative of Protecting Civilians

I don't think you can lump the Gulf Arabs and the Turks in with the Russians and Iranians, the latter have provided intermittent support to those fighting Assad's genocide, while the latter have facilitated it, but the rest is to the point.

"Some two years ago, a senior White House official told visitors from Capitol Hill that there were no attractive parties in Syria: that there was merit in simply allowing the fire consuming the country to burn itself out. That civilians—many of them women and children—would be disproportionately incinerated in the resulting inferno seems not to have struck the official as morally relevant or policy pertinent. Yet now, as reports of regime shakiness begin to accumulate, some additional practical, policy consequences of having done virtually nothing to protect Syrian civilians from an Assad regime campaign of mass homicide come into focus. 
To put the matter succinctly, the willingness of the Obama administration to make do with moralistic rhetoric about Assad regime war crimes and crimes against humanity has led it to an astounding analytical conclusion: he who has authorized acts of mass homicide on a daily basis—Bashar al-Assad—ought not be removed from power too quickly lest Islamist rebels take Damascus and conduct massacres in communities involuntarily implicated by regime criminality. The barrel bombing, starvation sieges, chemical attacks, and door-to-door atrocities have been so widespread, so intense, and so unopposed by a hollowed-out West that now the specter of additional mass atrocities—perhaps genocide—transcending Arab Sunni Muslims presents itself.
President Barack Obama continues to insist that the only alternative to leaving people utterly unprotected—the alternative he insists his critics favor—would have been the invasion and occupation of Syria. The President has misleadingly made it a matter of all or nothing, thereby justifying his choice of nothing.
Whatever use a straw man argument might have as a here-and-now excuse for inaction or as an alibi for future historians, it fails the test of truth telling. No one has advocated invading and occupying Syria. Even the most dedicated advocates of protecting human beings from mass murder have not recommended such a step. Ways and means that are much more modest are available to an administration willing to transcend talk and do actual things. Examples abound.

 Is there a diplomatic strategy aimed specifically at persuading Tehran and Moscow to pressure their client into abandoning mass homicide? Has President Obama wrung from his military advisors every conceivable option—short of invasion and occupation, and even short of bombing airfields—to stop (or at least complicate) the barrel bombing and (if necessary) neutralize possible mass murder alternatives such as Scud missiles and field artillery trained on residential neighborhoods? Is there an ongoing diplomatic offensive aimed at binding regional partners to the creation of safe havens inside Syria? Is there a move afoot to transcend an anemic train-and-equip program by creating an all-Syrian national stabilization force capable of protecting Syrian civilians? If patriotic Syrians cannot find ways to overcome their divisions and unite against both Iran and ISIL while themselves pledging to protect civilians, they will lose their country forever. If Iranians, Russians, Turks, and Gulf Arabs see civilian vulnerability merely as an inevitable cost of doing business, Syrians should rise up against the lot of them.
Giving the protection of Syrian civilians operational priority as opposed to lip service can save lives, build a foundation for political conflict resolution, and prevent ongoing mass homicide from assuming the additional dimension of genocide. Yet it will take more than words. It will take this President changing course. For as bad as Syria and its neighborhood are today, they can be immeasurably worse twenty months from now."

Jisr al-Shughur National Hospital. (Twitter/Nusra Front)

Regime’s Idlib front collapsing

What Assad has left are not supporters, but hostages. Hopefully many more will get the chance to escape when the pocket around Ariha closes.
"Five regime troops in the hospital reportedly handed themselves over to rebels on Thursday afternoon. 
According to pro-opposition outlet Siraj Press, the surrendered servicemen told the rebels that morale among regime troops still under siege had collapsed due to a lack of food and water after attempts to air drop supplies failed. 
The servicemen also said that a number of soldiers who tried to defect had been shot by the officers present, which made the remaining servicemen fear making a similar attempt."

Islamic State seize historic Syrian city

Robin Yassin-Kassab:
"It's terrible that they do control half of Syria, but of course most of the area they control is desert. So they don't actually control much of the populated areas, so it's over-exaggerated. It's very sad that minds are focused on Syria, whenever these horrific pirates, these strange people with their black flags in ISIS, do something very photogenic, when they cut the head off an American, or when they destroy some heritage, then immediately everybody pays attention, but people haven't been paying attention to what's been going on otherwise, which is much more significant.
Recently, a combination of the Free Syrian Army, the Islamic Front, and Jabhat al-Nusra, which is a jihadist group, have defeated the Assad régime in Idlib, in Jisr al-Shugour, in the Mastoumeh military base, at the Nasib border crossing in the south, at Tel Kurbi just outside Damascus; so there's a string of defeats for this régime, which has been propped up by Iran , mainly; Iranian occupation forces and Lebanese and Iraqi Shia militias backed by Iran; and the régime is now in the biggest trouble that it's been, that despite all of these Iranian forces, Lebanese and Iraqi forces, on its frontlines, it's losing battle after battle after battle. ISIS,  the "Islamic State", has also been defeated by the rebels. The media rather lazily seems to equate ISIS with the opposition, but ISIS is really a third force which is exploiting the chaos in Syria to come in and expand where it can. It's really very unpopular amongst Syrians, as is the Assad régime. ISIS has been defeated by the rebels, who are at war with it, in the Qalamoun region, in Quneitra, in the Damascus suburbs, just in the last couple of months. On the other hand, ISIS is defeating the Assad régime in Palmyra, and a couple of days ago it defeated the US-backed Iraqi army in Ramadi.  So at the moment the strongest player on the ground seems to be a combination of the Free Syrian Army and the Islamic Front.
Recently, it seems that things have changed around. I think one reason for this is just the exhaustion of Assad's forces. He's really down to the foreign powers that will help him, and his very narrow sectarian base. The vast majority of the Syrian people have deserted him, his economy is collapsing, and he's running out of men. I think that's the crucial factor. The second factor is that the Islamic Front groups, that's different groups as well, and the Free Army groups, have recently been able to work together much better than they had ever been able to do so before. They've become much better organised, and much more cohesive. They've formed new alliances, one called the Army of Conquest, which has been winning so many battles in the north. So it's a sign, I think, of various things; it's a sign of the new cohesion of the rebel groups, a sign of the exhaustion of the Assad régime, and also a sign that Saudi Arabia and Turkey have put aside their differences, and Qatar as well, the regional powers have recognised the huge threat of Iranian troops in Iraq and in Syria, and how this is just expanding the Sunni jihadist appeal, and they've decided to give much more anti-tank weaponry to the Free Syrian Army."

Before that, Jim Muir had said, "It seems that the bulk of the population has fled, certainly that's the government narrative." It isn't true*, just as they left the lower ranks to be massacred when they lost Tabqa airbase**, but it is easier to report the Assad version as the plausible Syrian narrative, rather than point out it has been a lie from Day One, which would involve more careful reporting.
* "
The official line of the Syrian military and State media is that President Assad’s forces evacuated all civilians as they fled on Wednesday. However, residents have said only high-ranking military officers and their families, as well as some “collaborators”, were able to leave." []

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Western leaders must heed Syrian concerns before appeasing Assad

"Return to the cause of all this evil, which is having a dictator that is terrorising his citizens and preventing them from having a free life. We must clean this wound before closing it."

"Where is the revolution [in the media’s reporting]? It’s not our fault. The Syrian people keep fighting the regime but nobody cares about that now because they (the media) don’t want [to show] that."

"Most of them (JN) are Syrians [so] when you (the West) fight them … when you bomb them, they get more supporters."

"When America blacklists, the Syrian people [are starting to] whitelist."

"Obama can cover the whole world in red lines. Who cares? We are dying here. And Ban Ki Moon? He is ‘worried’ all the time. Ban Ki Moon is worried, Obama is drawing red lines, everybody is talking and nobody is doing anything."

"The regime are killing people [with barrel bombs] … and they (the West and its allies) didn’t stop them. But they moved the whole world to destroy [Islamic State] in Kobane."

VIDEO: The moment civilian crops began burning in Syria's southern city of Daraa

Al-Bawaba"In this video, one civilian shows us around the southern Syrian city of Daraa, where he says government forces began burning precious crops in retailiation to rebel gains there."
Assad does this every year, as part of his 'kneel or starve' policy.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Reporters on Syria's war: why they do it, what they risk

“Usually barrel bombs come in the morning when you have a blue sky, so we wake up to this,” says Fouad, a media activist with a trim beard and flannel shirt who has worked four years in Aleppo.

So why doesn’t he leave?

“Because it’s our cause. It’s not a civil war, it’s a revolution and we are not terrorists,” says Fouad, who asked not to be identified further. “We lost so many friends and relatives, and this forces you to stay. If we leave, the regime will take over, or the extremists will be in charge.” '
Image result for Fears for Palmyra's ancient treasures as Isis retakes northern part of Syrian city

Fears for Palmyra's ancient treasures as
 Isis retakes northern part of Syrian city

"Even Syrian rebels were resting their hopes in the régime forces", said Channel 4 News just now. It's a lie.
“We’re trapped between a rock and a hard place. In me there’s a sense of deep resentment that this binary narrative that the regime has worked so hard to impose on Syria has actually finally paid off.
They succeeded in fostering and encouraging and allowing to emerge such a horrible entity that when you put the regime next to them, the regime seems to be a more benign option than them.”
21:40 Sky News, "In Syria, various militia are fighting each other."

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

"The Will to Survive" Documentary

Raed ShekhFares: "While Assad continues his mad efforts to destroy Syria just because its people asked for freedom, the Syrians, with unbeatable will, continue building what that criminal destroys."
Image result for Syria's First Responders Say They Need a No-Fly Zone, But No One Listens

Syria's First Responders Say They Need
 a No-Fly Zone, But No One Listens

' "The Syrian people have lost confidence in all the international community,
 the Syrian people have been killed for 4 years and nobody acted seriously to stop the killing."

Asked about the perpetrators of the chlorine attacks, Saleh laughed.
"There are two options," he said. "Either it's the regime or the international coalition."
"We believe that the recent escalation from the regime comes as a reaction to the victories of
the revolutionaries on the ground," said Saleh. "The regime applies a collective punishment
policy to make revenge on the population that are supportive of the revolution."

Monday, 18 May 2015

Syrian Rebels to Rohingya: Invitation for 500 Families Trapped at Sea

Syrian Rebels to Rohingya: Invitation
' “We know full well what it is like to suffer from hunger and anxiety.  We can barely maintain what we have but as the Prophet said: ‘Food for 2 is enough for 3′.  Hopefully we can stretch it bit more, but we can’t sit by and watch our brothers and sisters die at sea and do nothing.”    
Their plan is to convince Malaysian or Indonesian authorities to allow 500 families to come ashore and be escorted directly to the airport on a chartered flight to Istanbul wherein Turkish authorities would be asked to escort several chartered buses to the Turkish-Syrian border where they would be met and taken to a refugee camp on the Syrian side.'

Robin Yassin-Kassab:
"The incredible revolutionary Syrian people understand the importance of solidarity, even when they have been denied it."
Mazen Darwish (photo: Mazen Darwish)

Around-the-clock torture

'Most prisoners of the Assad regime are referred to as "the vanished". These are people who were arrested at checkpoints, border crossings or in house searches and whose subsequent fate is unknown, says the Syrian lawyer Z. He estimates their number at 150,000.

Conditions are particularly dire in the underground torture chambers operated by various intelligence services to which no one is given access, says the lawyer Z.

He and several colleagues have been documenting the conditions in Syria's prisons for years. "About 100 prisoners are crowded together in cells measuring four by four metres. They can neither crouch nor sit, but must in some cases remain standing for weeks. The lucky ones are able to lean their backs against the wall," says Z. The prisoners are driven to the very limits of their physical and mental endurance. Some of them break down; others end up going mad. "There are prisoners who beat their head against the wall until they're dead." '

A Syrian teacher speaks: ‘The whole school shook when the bomb exploded and I heard the kids screaming’

Syrian teacher speaks

 "The regime wants to empty the opposition-controlled areas of Aleppo and punish those who continue to live there. Civilians have always been targeted. Every time the opposition controls a new area, civilian areas are bombed. The regime has bombed many schools." 

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Do we really value stones and artefacts more than human flesh and blood?

Yvonne Ridley

Yvonne Ridley

 "The real story to emerge this week is about the heroic team of "Syrian Truth Smugglers" who have risked their lives to gather and preserve documents that provide evidence of war crimes committed by the Assad regime, but apart from one story in the Guardian newspaper in London it has been largely ignored.
 To date, nearly a quarter of a million people are thought to have been killed in the Syrian civil war, more than double the death toll of the war in Bosnia two decades ago. Eyewitness accounts tell us that barrel bombs are still being dropped on residential areas and the torture dungeons are still jammed with men, women and children who are being starved to death, as well as being beaten and abused.
 And while the cruel axis of evil – Assad and ISIS – forge ahead with their continually crossing paths of destruction it seems that the media and politicians can only express their outrage over the threat of what amounts to a few stones.
 Yes, Palmyra is beautiful and we should be angry at its wanton destruction, but I put the life of one Syrian child above any ancient city; so should you if you value human flesh and blood above stone."
 Palmyra is the location of one of the Assads' most notorious prisons*. You can see some pictures of Palmyra, as well as other parts of Syria's heritage, in this video.**

Syrian rebels attend a training session near Idlib, Syria (File)

Tide of Syria civil war turns against
I don't know about 'warlords', and ISIS would lose any remaining legitimacy if there was no longer a worse alternative in the form of Assad, but generally the Telegraph is more accurate than the more liberal papers.
" “The Syrian regime is much more hollow at its centre than one might think,” said a well-connected Syrian businessman, who asked not to be identified. “It’s a house of cards surviving on the projected image that it can still win the war. But the officials I know have already packed their bags, ready to run should that impression collapse.”
These developments spell neither the certain end of Mr Assad, nor the victory of his rebel enemies. But they reveal how four years of civil war have reduced the government to a shell. Power is concentrated in the hands of an inner circle of security chiefs - and their grip may not be as firm as the propaganda suggests.
The setbacks also show how Mr Assad has been forced to rely on his regional ally, Iran, for men and money - at a cost of relinquishing much of Syria’s sovereignty.
A diplomatic solution to the conflict would involve Mr Assad’s departure - probably to Moscow or Tehran - and a change of leadership, but the preservation of the regime’s institutions, including the deeply repressive security system that led many Syrians to join the first protests in 2011.
Under this scenario - which may pass as the best case - the debilitating war of attrition would grind on even after Mr Assad’s removal. Power would continue to slip out of the hands of whoever occupied the presidential palace in Damascus, flowing towards the rebel warlords who now control large expanses of Syria.
The insurgents would tighten their grip on their fiefdoms in the north and south, while Isil would hold on to the eastern region along the Euphrates valley. The slow and bloody disintegration of Syria would continue - with or without Mr Assad."

Saturday, 16 May 2015

A Woman’s Harrowing Account of Torture and Abuse Inside Assad’s Prisons

 "I was studying at the Secretariat Institute when the revolution erupted in parts of Damascus. It started to become clear to me that this corrupt regime was killing innocent people for claiming their freedom and dignity and I decided to join up.

 I was held by the intelligence division for 47 days. I was questioned 19 times and every time they hit me on my face, then with a rifle they hit me on sensitive places on my body; they electrocuted me then put me in cold water then electrocuted me again. I died a thousand times each second. Because of the torture I confessed to things I had nothing to do with, like working with armed groups, and I told them random names that I made up. All this caused me to get in trouble for things I had nothing to do with. I still have marks of the electrocution on my body.

 Praying was forbidden for all religions, Muslims or Christians, but the majority were Muslims. The food was so bad – some days they brought us rice with bugs in it or old, freezing bulgur. We used to wake up every day to the smell of rotten bodies – people who had died from the torture. Nobody could say anything because it was forbidden to knock on the door of your cell unless you had something to add to your confession. Every day we saw no fewer than 12 bodies."
Image result for U.S. President Barack Obama in an exclusive interview with Al Arabiya

U.S. President Barack Obama in an
 exclusive interview with Al Arabiya

NADIA BILBASSY-CHARTERS:"Somehow it’s perceived in the region that you’re putting down the Sunni Arabs, that somehow you link them to extremists."

Not immediately following, or it would be obvious -
"The problem we also have is that on the other side inside of Syria, we have extremists who may be opposed to Assad but also deeply opposed to the United States, are deeply opposed to the GCC countries; are interested in establishing a very destructive order and have engaged in the same kinds of brutality and violence that we don't want to see deeply entrenched."

He's probably had his national security advisors tell him that Jabhat al-Nusra are just as bad as Assad or ISIS, so this may be as much down to ignorance and ideological preconceptions as mendacity. He doesn't have any problem with extremism when it comes to Saudi Arabia or the GCC countries. On what could be done to sort Syria out, he must know that it's a lie that the only options were an American invasion or nothing at all.
PRESIDENT OBAMA:  "If the United States simply sent in troops into Syria -- our military is very effective, and for a short period of time, we potentially could come down on the side of the opposition against Assad.If you look at the history of the process, essentially what they're arguing is that we should have invaded Syria and overthrown the Syrian regime."
He should be criticised not only for not arming the Syrian opposition, the sort of action that could have seen the advances on the battlefield taking place now occur three years ago, and averted much of the destruction, but also for preventing others from giving them the weaponry they needed to change the balance of forces. But that is the sort of criticism he just ignores. And the diplomatic solution he's looking for isn't one that sees the overthrow of the régime, and the punishment of the war criminals, but one that keeps as much of Assad's state in place, and excludes as many Islamists as they can. If the rebels win, you can be sure he'll remind us that he called for Assad to go all along, but he's going to do as little as he can to help.
"People may criticize us for not having launched missiles against Assad after chemical weapons had been used, but keep in mind why we didn't. We didn't because they got rid of their chemical weapons. 

And that, in fact, was very important. It didn't solve barrel bombs. It didn't solve the incredible hardships that all the Syrian people are going through. But to solve those larger problems, that requires the kind of international work in which we are obviously a very significant part and a very significant partner -- and my Secretary of State, John Kerry, has been tireless in trying to arrive at a diplomatic solution to this problem."

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